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Big data hijacks mobile

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I signed up to a well-known high-street loyalty scheme last week and amongst other things, I was asked to enter my date of birth. Well, like many consumers fed up with having to share my life facts with the world, I used my usual fake DOB (which also makes me feel younger) and is part of my standard online ‘cover’ – I love having multiple identities! It seems I’m not the only one...

Earlier this year a US restaurant loyalty solution provider released data that showed that at least 10% of its customers lied about their age and another 18% left it blank.


The day after I signed up to the loyalty scheme I was at a mobile conference. There I found Big Data being banded about as the way that targeted marketing would become more targeted. Mobile was seen simply as a channel for that marketing. Excuse me, I thought this was a mobile conference!


Even McKinsey’s are talking in a mobile context about micro-segmentation enabled by analysing masses of information. But if the data is wrong in the first place, surely Big Data is going to magnify the problem? And also, according to McKinsey’s, by 2018, the United States alone could face a massive shortfall of people who have the deep analytical skills necessary to analyse the mountains of data that are going to be available. There might also be as much as a 1.5m shortage of managers and analysts who would then know what to do with the analysis. All sounds a bit bleak really.


At the mobile conference I was surprised by the level of Big Data talk. I was equally surprised that location-based services were hardly mentioned (apart from a presentation by Danielle Anderson from the Harris and Hoole coffee chain).


So, I have a theory. There are two things going on. Retail marketers are so entrenched in profiling their customers that they are now addicted to it and can’t kick the habit. This may well work for online, but with mobile you can very quickly lose a customer as a result of mis-targeted messaging. (See Peter Weare’s article: Warning - you are only two taps away from losing your best customers) So you need to be very careful about your segmentation or ‘personalisation’ approach.


The second thing is that big suppliers like big solutions. And Big Data needs big solutions. These suppliers have got big marketing budgets and will invest a lot in persuading you that you need their solutions. (Oh and the big consultancies have already worked out that it's going to be hard, so you'll need to engage them as well to make it work). Don't be fooled. If you thought building a data warehouse – let’s face it that project in your organisation has either been going on for years or has been canned – was hard enough, you wait ‘til you try delivering your Big Data project!


My advice is keep it simple (and hold on to your money). In the mobile world use what you know for sure. Time and place are two great data points. Combine that with recent 100% certain information and you can’t argue with it. “You’re here now. You’ve ordered a tennis raquet. Come and pick it up”. Use mobile to make your customer’s life simple. Enhance their journey to pay and they'll like you more. And what's more you can do this with a small solution that works today. 


So, before you throw all your budget down the Big Data black hole, talk to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. about more effective ways to connect with your customers.

John Prideaux

Leading Digital Consulting at Wisereach

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